KARL QUINN August 14, 2012
Geoffrey Rush with the Forum cast. Photo: Angela Wylie
A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum — the cast turned up at Her Majesty's instead.
That was less accident than beautiful symmetry, though, as Geoffrey Rush introduced his fellow players to the media yesterday in the theatre where the musical comedy made its Australian bow in 1964.
''Goodus afternoonum,'' said Rush as he took the stage to introduce ''the cream of the crop'' of musical comedy. Cue Shane Bourne, Packed to the Rafters star Hugh Sheridan (via videolink from New York), Magda Szubanski, Gerry Connolly (via videolink from Edinburgh), Christie Whelan, Mitchell Butell, Adam Murphy and 81-year-old Bob Hornery, who appeared in the original Australian production 48 years ago.
Connolly has Hornery's old role this time around, the brothel owner Marcus Lycus. He promised his characterisation would be ''informed by the member for Dobell, Craig Thomson, with a little hint of Peter Slipper and a sprinkle of Christopher Pyne''.
With a book by Stephen Sondheim, Forum is a Roman farce with a touch of class, but Rush was off in Frankie Howerd territory as he introduced Butell. ''He is so skilled he can do anything,'' he said. ''I'm not suggesting he's a contortionist, but musical theatre is where he comes into his own.'' Oo-er.
Sondheim has flagged his intention to come to Melbourne for the premiere. ''It's a great honour,'' Rush said. ''I got to meet him two years when I was shooting the last Pirates film in London. We ended up in the bar together having a long chat, about opera of all things.''
''Geoffrey may be relaxed about it but I'll be on beta blockers, quite frankly,'' chipped in Szubanski. ''I'm going to do a few more singing lessons before then.''
At 81, ''old dog'' Bob Hornery is unlikely to be fazed by much. Last year's revival of The Importance of Being Earnest dragged him out of his happy retirement, and he ended up stealing the show as the doddery butler in Simon Phillips' swansong from the MTC last November.
Now he's back with Phillips, Rush and Whelan from that production, plus old mates Bourne and Szubanski too.
''It's a lovely company, this,'' he says. ''When Earnest finished I had withdrawal symptoms, so when this turned up I was thrilled. This is what you miss, you see, when you retire — you miss the people.''
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is at Her Majesty's Theatre for 12 weeks from October 27.